Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on the week's biggest stories

Issue: "Hope or hype?," Jan. 20, 2007

Iraq

President Bush headed to Georgia to be with the troops after pointedly rejecting calls from the Washington establishment left and right for a graceful withdrawal from Iraq and diplomatic engagement with its neighbors. The president instead told Americans Jan. 10 he will put over 20,000 new forces on the ground, an uptick already underway to "change America's course in Iraq."

Abortion

On Jan. 22, 1973, "MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court," acknowledging "the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy," but ruling that the court's task "is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection." Thirty-four years since Blackmun and his associates overruled state laws on abortion, clearing the way for at least 1 million abortions a year in the United States, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision continues to provoke a passionate turnout of thousands of proponents and opponents in the streets of Washington. Pro-lifers are taking the cause to the steps of the Capitol this year with new hope, that the election of seven freshman Democrats who say they oppose abortion will signal that Democrats are ready to accept pro-lifers in their ranks and that a Democratic Congress may act more judiciously on abortion-related legislation.

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But don't count on an overnight conversion. House members swiftly took up legislation Jan. 11 to reverse a presidential ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, which involves the destruction of human embryos. President Bush has pledged to veto the measure, as he did a similar one last summer, and for now the Democratic leadership lacks the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Research biologist Randall Prather points out that, despite increasing pressure on Congress to fund the studies, his colleagues have leapt to human testing before following protocol calling first for sufficient animal testing.

Russia

EU commissioners upped the urgency to draft a joint energy policy after Russian President Vladimir Putin cut oil supplies through the Druzhba pipeline in Belarus, one year after he temporarily cut gas supplies through Ukraine. The pipeline supplies 1.8 million barrels a day to Poland and Germany, renewing the likelihood of fuel shortages across Europe and Russia's capricious leveraging of supplies.

Latin America

President Hugo Chavez was sworn in Jan. 10 to a third term, announcing plans to nationalize Venezuela's electrical and telecommunications companies and to revise its constitution in a bid to create a socialist state with echoes of Fidel Castro's Cuba: "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it."

In Nicaragua, former Marxist guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega was sworn in as president the same day, pledging an alliance with Chavez and other leftist Latin leaders.

Hall of Fame

For Mark McGwire, 583 career homeruns were enough to earn only 128 votes-out of a record 545 ballots-toward baseball's Hall of Fame. Rumors of steroid use locked the 7th all-time homerun hitter out of the Hall, while sports writers voted in Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and San Diego Padres batting champ Tony Gwynn.

Technology

It was a sad day for BlackBerry. Shares in the ubiquitous smart-phone maker slid more than 6 percent after Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs announced the formal launch of the iPhone, a multi-touch marvel that syncs web and media information from a computer along with operating as a quad-band cell phone. Jobs promised to "reinvent" telecommunications and initial critics agreed that he had-producing a device more out of Minority Report than a computer store. Release of the device, which won't ship until summer, sent Apple stock up $6 a share in less than a day. But more than shareholders covet a piece of the action: Cisco sued Apple over trademark infringement involving the name, saying it's not interested in money; just "collaboration and joint development with Apple."

Man knows not his time

It comes in a plastic-wrapped brick and is consumed by more than 100 million people per day, but few people give a second thought to the man who invented ramen noodles. Momofuku Ando, or Mr. Noodle, died near Osaka, Japan, Jan. 5 at 96. In 1958 Ando was looking for cheap but good food for the working class when he invented ramen noodles. The product-fried, dried, and sold curbside-turned his company, Nissin Foods, into a global giant and has served as many or more billions than McDonald's hamburgers.

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